Showdown in Minneapolis over Black Lives Matter protests

© @MarkJWestpfahl
Police have dispersed Black Lives Matter activists at America’s biggest shopping center after hundreds showed up at Mall of America, defying a restraining order. Protests then moved to the MSP International airport, blocking traffic and delaying flights.

After being removed from the mall by the authorities, protesters traveled by light rail to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP). At first they gathered on the roadway outside a terminal, blocking traffic.

As more police began to arrive at the airport, some of the protesters moved inside Terminal 2. As the crowd surged inside the terminal, two security checkpoints at were shut down, and many flights were delayed.

According to reports by local media, at least two protesters were arrested inside the terminal. Three more were arrested at the airport transit station, before the rest of the protesters boarded the train and left, around 3:30 p.m. local time.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of activists showed up at the Mall of America, defying a large security presence and clearly posted messages that the planned protest was illegal. They were confronted by local and state police, who issued a warning that the protest was against the law and demanded the crowd disperse.

After getting pushed out of the mall's main rotunda, protesters moved to the transit station and boarded the light rail towards MSP.

One of the activists has been live-streaming the protest.

On Monday, Three Black Lives Matter activists – Michael McDowell, Miski Noor, and Kandace Montgomery – were barred from the Mall of America under a temporary restraining order issued by District Judge Karen A. Janisch.

READ MORE: Mall of America sues Black Lives Matter activists, wants protest canceled

However, the judge said she could not grant an injunction against Black Lives Matter Minneapolis in general, as they were not a legally recognized entity. While Janisch said this should not be construed as approval of the protest, the activists saw this as a victory.

“We have endured an armed white supremacist terrorist attack where 5 of us were shot; police violence in the form of mace, batons, and less lethal projectiles; over 50 arrests on highway 94 and at the 4th Precinct; and freezing temperatures to demand justice for Jamar Clark,” Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said on the Facebook page dedicated to the protest. “If it’s not clear yet: we won’t stop until we get it.”

Clark, a 24-year-old black man, was shot and killed by police during a domestic disturbance call in November. After protesting for two weeks in front of Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct, Black Lives Matter activists were dispersed on December 3.

Police say that Clark had assaulted his girlfriend and was attacking the medical staff, and was reaching for an officer’s pistol when he was shot. Activists accuse the police of lying, saying that eyewitnesses saw Clark in handcuffs.

Clark's cousin, Alexander Clark, was arrested inside the Mall of America.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis demands that the police release video of Clark’s death and prosecute the police involved without a grand jury. They also want federal terrorism charges against three “white supremacists” who opened fire on the demonstrators outside the 4th Precinct in November, injuring five. In addition, they demand a “safety plan to protect our communities from Police violence” and for the state to “disinvest from police and reinvest in Black futures.”

While praising the Black Lives Matter protests’ effective “nonviolent disruption of systems in public spaces,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board cautioned the group on Tuesday against taking their message to the Mall of America.

“Their cause is unrelated to the Mall of America. Their protest could be held anywhere. Public officials can decide to allow protests on freeways, on train tracks and even in front of police stations, but they must draw the line at safeguarding private spaces,” the Star-Tribune editors wrote, noting that the highest courts in Minnesota and the US have decisively ruled that shopping malls were not a public space, regardless of any public financing they might receive.

Last year’s protest at the Mall of America drew nearly 3,000 people and forced temporary closures of over 80 stores on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Two dozen protesters were arrested. Almost a thousand people indicated on Facebook that they would attend the protest this Wednesday.

Located in Bloomington, Minnesota – just outside of the Twin Cities – the Mall of America has a floor area of over 96 acres and receives over 40 million visitors per year.